June 14, 2023


Madras kids at Seeds of Discovery eventBend, Ore. –  A new environmental program for youth, launched in early 2023, is spreading its wings to Madras this summer, thanks to a partnership between Camp Fire Central Oregon and the Central Oregon Health Council.

The program’s Madras-based session, called “ExplOregon: The Nature Chronicles,” will provide youth entering grades one thru six, with five days of outdoor summer camp, July 10-14 at Sahalee Park in Madras. What’s more, the camp has a strong focus on environmental discovery and experiences with nature. 

According to James DiRosa, Camp Fire Central Oregon’s outdoor and environmental coordinator, “ExplOregon was born out of Camp Fire’s mission to connect youth to the outdoors, to each other, and to themselves. This program is unique in that we’ll be doing nature-based activities that touch many layers of this mission. And what’s also unique is that it’s being offered for $25 per camper—it’s normally $375 for such a weeklong program. This is because of the financial support offered by our generous partner, Central Oregon Health Council. This camp is for all genders and includes free lunch.”

Madras youth making seed pods at Seeds of DiscoveryAlso setting this program apart is that staff will include interns who are pursuing environmental studies and leadership. Having these interns working with the youth means kids will get relevant teaching and enrichment experiences, which also benefit the academic and career goals of these interns.

“It’s been really exciting to work with the interns to develop an engaging curriculum and lots of fun activities for this camp,” DiRosa says. “Our campers are going to be busy, gaining new skills and learning about nature in a whole new way—everything from art to exercise, engineering, research, and more. And our interns have so much passion around what they’re doing, so this infuses tons of great expertise and energy around this new program.”

The camp is open to 30 youth, so DiRosa is encouraging families in the Madras/Warm Springs area to sign up their kids as soon as possible to get a spot. Registration and more information can be found at

The ExplOregon program is hosting a second session in LaPine, August 14-18, with registration being managed by LaPine Parks and Recreation.

Photo caption: Kids at the recent Seeds of Discovery event hosted by the Museum at Warm Spring had a blast with Camp Fire Central Oregon, which taught them how to make seed pods with mud, flour, water and seeds.

James DiRosa, Outdoor & Environmental Program Coordinator| Camp Fire Central Oregon (541) 203-3528

Katie Roberts, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator | Camp Fire Central Oregon (541) 299-2812

About Camp Fire Central Oregon
Founded in 1910, Camp Fire is a national organization that actively engages youth and teens in building essential skills for life. Camp Fire Central Oregon has been a local leader in youth development since 1916. The organization provides co-ed out-of-school time, teen service and leadership, camp and environmental programs. Young people want to shape the world. Camp Fire provides the opportunity to help them find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are.


When it came to physical health, we renovated bathrooms, paved walkways, and made other camp updates. When it came to child safety and abuse prevention, we continued to refine our national and local policies and procedures, working closely with youth protection experts at Praesidium, the national leader in abuse risk management. This continues to be a huge priority so we can meet the highest standards or have a clear path to get there.

And when it came to mental and emotional health, the toll and isolation of COVID-19 was immense; the U.S. Surgeon General just declared children’s mental health a national crisis, releasing a Youth Mental Health Advisory. To make sure we were ready for young people, we formed a new partnership with On Our Sleeves to offer mental health resources to our network. We also continued to expand education around the power of developmental relationships from The Search Institute. We focused program efforts around creating a safe space, the foundation for youth engagement and interaction, and measured for quality using Weikart Center’s Program Quality Assessment tool.

As we worked through our strategic plan that kicked off in early 2021, we also focused on equity. We addressed equity in both our professional development and in our programming, and we also worked on connecting social-emotional learning (SEL) to equity and explaining to our network why it matters for young people.

Lastly, we know that when a young person gets outside, magic happens. No matter how young people experience the outdoors — as something awesome and powerful to behold or something that catalyzes relationships with self or others, it is a place that everyone can access. It is a tool for positive youth development, and you can find the results and impact in these pages.

We all need connection. Despite COVID-19 and its barriers, Camp Fire was able to connect 68,546 youth and their families to the outdoors, to others, and to themselves, over the past year. We hope you enjoy this report and see the life-giving connections that make this work so important.




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